Sunday, March 24, 2013

Most Epic NoRooz Feast Ever!

NoRooz Mobarak! Happy Persian New Year!

We had the Most Epic Persian New Year! 
As you probably already know, NoRooz is my favorite holiday of the year. I love the symbolism of the holiday, all the various parts of the celebration, and - of course - the food. For many years now, I've thrown a big party for NoRooz, but this year was definitely the best ever. By "best," I mean to say: "tastiest!" I spent all week planning, doing advance cooking and food prep, and then on Friday my awesome friend came over and spent 5 straight hours in the kitchen cooking with me! It was such a great thing to have her help and company in the kitchen, and we were so relaxed and happy all afternoon. It's pretty great to put together a huge feast and not even be stressin'. Here's what we ate:

First up, for appetizers, I made a vegan cheese plate. For the first time ever, I put actual vegan cheeses on my adorable cheese platter! The two long tubes of cheese are the Cashew Chevre from Artisan Vegan Cheese. The one on the left is rolled in finely minced fresh mint and walnuts. In the middle is some cashew-based feta cheese from a recipe from a friend. This was my first time ever making something from Artisan Vegan Cheese, and to say that this cheese was a hit (with my almost entirely not-vegan crowd) would be a total understatement. I couldn't even lure people away from the cheeses to come see what we had made for dinner. !!! The one rolled in mint and walnuts was especially delicious and popular.

Of course, you gotta have some bread for your cheese, so we made a batch of this Barbari No-Knead Bread. (actually, I must admit, my kitchen pal made this without any help from me!) It was really delicious and simple. I'll definitely make it again. I've always wanted to make fresh bread for NoRooz, but I've always chickened out in past years. I'm so glad we did it this year! The two loaves are topped with yummy, yummy nigella seeds. I love those oniony little guys!


One thing that is almost always served with Persian meals is a big plate of fresh herbs and red onion. I accidentally forgot to set aside some cilantro for my herb platter, so we had Italian parsley, red onion, and fresh mint. I love the way the fresh herbs and onion offer a zip of life to each bite.

As always, we made a delicious and simple Shirazi-style Salad. It's basically cucumbers, tomatoes, and red onion... with a few olives, fresh mint and fresh parsley. You will notice, there are some common themes here! For dressing, I did equal parts lime juice, pomegranate molasses, and olive oil ~ with a pinch of salt. So delicious!

One of the most popular and delicious dishes of the evening was this incredible Amoli Jeweled Rice Salad, from Silk Road Cooking. I made this once before, but last time I had forgotten to put on the dressing. This year, I remembered, and this dish is truly spectacular. Beautiful, delicious, interesting, and just fantastic. And, also, pretty simple to make. It's a rice salad with raisins, barberries, candied orange peel & carrots, slivered almonds... and then tossed with a garlicky, scallion-lime dressing and then served over a bed of baby arugula. Seriously, you guys, this recipe is a real winner.

Of course, there are some things you simply must serve every year for NoRooz, and Kuku Sabzi is one of those things. I made a double batch of the omelete batter from Vegan Brunch and then added a metric ton of chopped herbs (semi-recipe is here), barberries, and walnuts. Last year we had trouble flipping our giant omeletes, so we learned our lesson and this year we made them the size of small pancakes. It was perfect! These creations are SO TASTY. I really recommend having your own little NoRooz party with yourself and making a batch of these. I can also personally testify that they make excellent breakfast leftovers the next day.

Another thing you must have for NoRooz is a beautiful Sabzi Polow! It's jasmine rice with a mountain of fresh, minced herbs, cooked in the Persian way to form a delicious golden crust called tahdig. So, so good. And, as you can see, my tahdig turned out really beautifully this year! After many years of tahdig failure, I am finally getting the hang of this thing. I need to put together my recipe still... I used a combo of an old recipe of mine and the Persian rice recipe from Vegan Eats World. I'll type up my recipe for you soon!

Here's a goofy picture of me that Mr. Vegan Eats and Treats took. 
I was beaming with pride about my beautiful tahdig victory.
Also, I was wearing my brand new hot pink dress for NoRooz!

I know this isn't really the most beautiful picture, but this is such a delicious soup recipe! It's called Ash-e Reshteh, and it's another "must have" for NoRooz. (here's my recipe) It is absolutely packed full of veggie goodness: cups of chopped herbs (parsley, scallions, dill, cilantro, spinach), beets, 3 kinds of beans, lentils, onions, spices, and - at the very end - some noodles. Oh man, it is so good. For me, the Ash really makes the whole meal. As soon as I dive into my piping hot bowl of Ash, I know that NoRooz is here for sure. As my friend Jasmine said "It's the best meal of the year!"

Along with the Ash is served a special garnish of onions sauteed until crispy golden brown and then with turmeric and mint. Oh man, it's so good! To make sure that no one took all the garnish in one big scoop, we came up with the plan of serving it alongside the soup - with my special tiny baby tongs that I bought in India. Finally, a use for that adorable kitchen gadget!

Here is the whole spread! So much bounty!
also, look at the beautiful tulips from the farmers' market!

I realized that I forgot to take pictures of two really delicious dishes that I also made:
Persian Spinach with Orange Sauce (in the foreground in the square yellow Pyrex dish): such a beautiful stewy spinach with white beans and orange juice. I just love the flavor combos in this dish.

Adasi Lentils: (at the back of the picture in a little round yellow bowl) This was my first time ever making this dish and it was really delicious. I think it was Mr. VE&T's favorite. The recipe (found here) is so simple and straightforward, but the flavor is really delicious. The main seasoning is cinnamon and a special Persian spice called Angelica. Ground angelica can be a little hard to find - I needed to go to a specifically Persian market to find it, but I suppose you could always track it down online. It's worth it!

Here's my dinner plate as I sat down to eat. So much deliciousness. I ate until I was stuffed silly!

I also made a couple of special drinks. 
Iran has all sorts of cool unusual refreshing non-alcoholic drinks, 
which -- as a non-drinker -- I really appreciate. 

This one in the picture is such a special drink, Dried Lime Tea. (recipe here) If you can track down some dried Persian Limes, I cannot recommend this recipe enough. It is completely simple, takes about 10 minutes, and is just extremely delicious and unique. Everyone was raving about it! If you do make it though, I suggest starting with half of the recommended sugar. The whole amount is awfully sweet, and I prefer it with a more delicate sweetness level. 

I also made a giant pitcher of Pomegranate Spritzer. It was fresh pomegranate juice from the farmers' market, lime juice, sparkly water, simple syrup, and a few lightly crushed sprigs of fresh mint thrown in the pitcher. So very delicious. I don't have any exact measurements for you, I just sorta kept tasting and adding until it came out the way I liked it. 

Were you worried that after all that dinner, we wouldn't have anything for dessert? Well, you shouldn't have worried. If you leave me in charge of menu planning, there will most certainly be plenty of sweeties to pick from.

My all-time favorite Persian sweetie: Sohan As-ali. These are almond-brittle candies made with rosewater and saffron and then sprinkled with chopped pistachios. They are delicate, delicious, sophisticated, and beautiful. This year I was a little generous with my saffron dosage, and the color and flavor was extra wonderful because of it. Note to self! The last few years I've used a candy thermometer (instead of just dropping a ball into ice water) and with the help of the thermometer I've gotten a really excellent, delicate crunch. So, if you have a candy thermometer, it's worth the extra trouble. (here's my recipe)

We also made some totally exquisite stuffed dates. This was really fun because we sorta chatted and schemed and experimented our way to total deliciousness. For starters, I splurged on the biggest most beautiful Medjool dates at the farmer's market. Then, we ground up a bunch of raw pistachios into almost-pistachio-butter, added a pinch of salt, and added some much more coarsely ground raw pistachios. That goop held together pretty well, and was stuffed into the dates and topped with shredded coconut. Seriously, so totally fantastic. I loved the little bit of salt in the filling with the crazy sweetness of the dates.

There was also a small dish of Pistachio Turkish Delight. I did not make this, but I did eat it. I love love love Turkish delight so much. I would love to try my hand at making it someday, but I must say, this stuff was totally delicious. I've eaten a lot of Turkish Delight in my day, and I think this might have been my favorite one ever. Not too sweet, no weirdo artificial colorings, perfect chewiness level... ahh. Lucky for me, there are a couple left, and I intend to savor them!

Tut! Tut are little rosewater marzipan candies in the shape of mulberries, with slivered pistachios for stems. If you want to try out a Persian sweetie for yourself, this is the easiest and most simple recipe to start with. They are so simple and yet so delicious. Also, I love that they are so tiny - they are not too guilt inducing. I use this excellent and clear recipe from My Persian Kitchen.

The day after NoRooz is also my dad's birthday, so we usually combine our NoRooz party along with my daddy's birthday party. My dad grew up in the South, and his most favorite dessert of all is Key Lime Pie. This year I made the *totally amazing* Key Lime Pie recipe from The Artful Vegan. The filling is green from avocado!!! You cannot believe how delicious and easy that filling is. On top are dollops of White Chocolate Mousse, decorated with poppy seeds and pistachios. The crust is also very light and delicate and is made (partially) with pistachios ground into flour and poppy seeds. It's such a totally perfect version of Key Lime Pie to serve at NoRooz, since so many Persian sweeties have poppy seeds and pistachios in them. Plus, it's just crazy delicious.

Last, but not least, I also made a really delicious batch of totally-not-traditional mini Persian Biscotti. I am pretty pleased with how they turned out, so I'll share my recipe with you! Next time I might try upping the cardamom a bit (maybe 1/4 tsp), and possibly even adding a pinch of cinnamon. So, go ahead and try that if you want!

Mini Persian Biscotti
Recipe based 100% off of the Kitchen Sink Biscotti from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar
Makes about 40 mini cookies

1/4 cup non-dairy milk
2 big pinches of saffron threads
2 Tbsp ground flax seeds
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup + 3 Tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup raw, unsalted pistachios
1/2 cup candied orange peel, cut into 1/4-1/2 inch dice

Preheat your oven to 350 F, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. (Don't use your silpat, it doesn't work as well for these cookies)

Add the non-dairy milk to a big bowl. Use your fingertips to crumble the saffron threads into the milk. Add the ground flax and whisk it all together until smooth. Add the oil, sugar, and vanilla, and whisk it until well-combined.

Sift in the all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt. Using a spoon or rubber spatula, mix it all together into a smooth dough. Add in the pistachios and candied orange peel and knead them into the dough (either with your hands or with a rubber spatula). Make sure to push any stragglers back into the dough.

Form two logs of dough about 10 inches long by 2 inches wide. Use a rubber spatula to shape the logs nice and smoothly, especially the edges. Place them a few inches apart onto the cookie sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes until the dough is puffed and firm. Take the cookie tray out, turn off the oven, and let the logs cool - for at least 45 minutes. If any parts look too browned, carefully slice them off with a sharp knife.

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Very carefully, slide the logs of dough onto a cutting surface. Using a sharp, heavy knife (preferably one with a thinnish blade), slice the logs into 1/2-inch thick slices. Be decisive in your chopping action! Gently transfer the cookies to your baking sheet and lay them on their sides. Bake for about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven (but leave the oven on), and carefully flip each cookie over. Return to the oven for another 12-14 minutes, until the cookies look golden and toasty, but not burnt. Carefully transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Enjoy!
One of my favorite things about NoRooz is celebrating the New Year at the moment of the arrival of Spring, when the natural world is bursting with growth and life and renewal. It just makes so much sense. Seeing all the blossoming flowers and budding leaves and bright green growth gives my spirits a sense of fresh possibility and energy. I hope you have a wonderful new year full of life and growth!

16 comments:

  1. Epic 4 REAL! Everything is gorgeous. And yr right about how this is a better time for new year's. Why do we have to go out and celebrate and try to stop eating sweets in the dead of winter? Ugh, just depressing.
    The photos and food are all amazing. I'm really intrigued by the barberries you used. I'm trying to pick out my dream plater from everything you served, but I'll just ooh and aah over the vegan cheeses and the cute little tut!
    I do drink alcohol but I love that you made special drink recipes. So much more fun than plain water or juice.
    Happy No Rooz!

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  2. everything looks so incredible!!

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  3. Amey, you and your friend really outdid yourselves this year. Everything is insanely gorgeous, and so gluten-free. I would have cried tears of happiness at such a spread, and it makes me want to jump on an airplane to come help and celebrate next year. So pretty. Your snail plate also made me squeee, so cute! I have no idea how you were all able to even taste so many delicious things in one meal.

    Happy New Year!
    xo
    kittee

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  4. Happy No Rooz! You weren't joking about this year being epic. That is like a feast and a half.

    (I'm so glad the mousse turned out for your dad's birthday treat too!)

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  5. Sarah C12:38 PM

    This is all so lovely and looks delish! I love your little petroglyph pitcher too - I need to find one of those!

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  6. [ Smiles ] I see that you have made some delicious vegan recipes to help with bringing in the Persian New Year.

    I enjoyed your article!

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  7. Oh my heavens. I die, I die. Particularly over the desserts! Rosewater, pistachio, cardamom, marzipan... these are a few of my favourite things. Oh, what a dream feast!

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  8. Don't be surprised if I show up on your doorstep next Nowruz!

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  9. Vegan food recipes I saw this the other day while I was watching River Cottage: Veg Heroes, and it totally blew my mind. So this is a recipe for a totally raw vegan dessert, that means it contains no heat, meat, dairy produce or oval produce.

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  10. This is an INSANE NoRooz spread! My goodness! What lucky guests you have! I love the flavors of Persian cooking and it looks like you really nailed it. Delectable photos!

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  11. Oh my goodness, everything looks so delicious! I'd love to try all of these dishes sometime. And thank you for sharing some of the recipes.

    vegcourtesy.blogspot.com

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  12. You continue to astonish, impress, and inspire me. Just...wow. And I love the pic of you - so much joy! :)

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  13. Wow, this looks incredible!!! Hope you enjoyed eating all that yummy-looking food!

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  14. Woah! Amey! This is EPIC! Happy NoRooz! What an awesome spread. I love the super proud picture of you with your rice in your pretty new dress and all of the food looks wonderful. I think I'm going to need to buy The Artful Vegan now that I've seen that Key Lime Pie, it looks perfect.

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  15. STUNNING! You have outdone yourself. Gorgeous presentation and food. I am especially intrgued by the sabzi because I love crispy Koren stone bowl rice, so I'm sure I'd love this.
    xoxo

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  16. Truly a feast of epic proportions! Nice job on the tahdig!

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